Field of Science

The cost of blogging

I started this blog in the beginning of October, 2008. Prior to that I had several conversations over email with different creationists, which I am very happy to have had. They taught me a lot about the "way of the religious," if you like, or at least of some of them.

In May 2007 I had one such conversation with Gary Kurz. First line of his first email was this:
Oh my friend, there is absolutely nothing that could shake my faith or cause me to even consider evolution as a viable explanation for why we are here.
This, I believe, is one of the most important things to understand when dealing with creationists. Their belief is a faith, and evidence means nothing. And I understand that. I am not at all like that, but the point here is that one of the ways that I got to learn that is through written conversation. For example:
In your argument against the Bible, you exclude the one element that matters - faith. Faith is critical to Christianity. I can say without hesitation I have never met Christ in person. I have never met the Father in person. I take by faith that what he said is true and then he proves it by completing the faith transaction with fulfillment of the promises he makes. One is that I will be a new creature. Without doubt when I met Christ (not in person - I am not a weirdo) the change was immediate and sure. From my language to my thoughts, I fell under deep conviction to be better. I gave up smoking - something I had done 1,000 times in the 20 years previous without success - but it was immediate and permanent - and not once - not even once did I have the urge to smoke again - from 3 packs of Kools a day to nothing.
Gary has given me full permission to quote him here.

Also in May 2007 I had another email conversation with Babu Ranganathan. In October last year I wrote a post here quoting him from his emails - without getting his permission to do so. Done is done, I suppose, though I would no longer do that without asking for permission.

Babu is on a mission to discredit evolutionary theory, and he is doing a particularly bad job of it, employing the silliest from the standard arsenal. In The Natural Limits of Evolution you can for instance find the argument that mutations are bad, and therefore cannot make things evolve:
All observed biological traits and variations are the result of new combinations of already existing genes or the result of modifications (mutations) of already existing genes. This allows for only limited biological variations to occur. Evolutionists, however, believe that, if given enough time, random or chance mutations in the genetic code, caused by random environmental forces such as radiation, will produce entirely new traits and variations which natural selection can then act upon. However, mutations are accidents in the sequential molecular structure of the genetic code and they are almost always harmful, as would be expected from accidents. Of course, just like some earthquakes that don't do any damage to buildings, there are also mutations that don't do any biological harm. But, even if a good mutation does occur for every good mutation there will be hundreds of harmful ones with the net result over time being disastrous for the species. Natural selection would have no chance. It wouldn't get to first base!
And this argument that the second law of thermodynamics prohibits evolution:
Entropy does occur in open systems. We discovered entropy here on Earth which is an open system in relation to the Sun. However, entropy applies only to spontaneous or chance processes.

The spontaneous (the unaided or undirected) tendency of matter is always towards greater disorder -- not towards greater order and complexity as evolution would teach. Just having enough energy from the Sun is not sufficient to overcome entropy. This tendency towards disorder which exists in all matter can be temporarily overcome only if there exists some energy converting and directing mechanism to direct, develop, and maintain order.
Babu has helped me understand why some creationists use arguments that are obviously false. Either they know this and are perpetrating a lie as a means to an end, or they just don't understand the science at all. Babu, I conclude from our conversation, is clearly of the latter kind. He really just doesn't get it. This was a valuable lesson for me.

Since then I have had the pleasure, mostly, to converse with a few other creationists on various subjects, and I have learned something from all of them. Some people chose to cut our conversations short, but never did it happen that any of them would make any provisions of any sort. It was just conversation. But the I started this blog last year, and things have since been slightly different.

Three times in the last five months has it happened that I contacted someone with evolutionary theory issues to start a conversation, and the fact that I was a blogger has greatly influenced those conversation in different ways.

Without naming any names, I can say that the first person refused to even have an email conversation with me for fear of being on the record. In order to show this person that I was serious about my intent to learn from our conversation, I had to agree to do it in person, face to face. I agreed, and this person graciously made the effort to come for a visit. I promised not to write anything about it, and apart from this, I have not (though my fingers itch...).

The second person was not a creationist as such, but is at least of the persuasion that evolutionary theory is wrong on some major points. This person had written an article about it, and wanted it published in a scientific journal, but didn't have much luck with it. I contacted him to ask him about his arguments, but he refused to talk about them unless I agreed to write up a standard peer review to be published together with his article. Under no other circumstances, e.g. on my blog, was this person willing to have a conversation.

At that time I found these two experiences taken together rather curious. One refused to talk in writing, and the other refused to talk except in the most official form of writing. Both times those choices were made in view of me being a blogger.

Then, prior to a third conversation I was given permission to post anything from our exchanges here, but as the conversation didn't quite turn out like we both wanted (i.e. productively), the other part now required that I post everything we had both said to each other in full on my blog, or the conversation would come to an end. I refused this, and feared that that was indeed the end of it, but we have, to the explicitly stated benefit of both of us, come to an agreement by which the conversation can continue. And so it does. And I am planning - with permission - to write one or more posts here on Pleiotropy when the time is ripe.

To conclude: In my limited experience initiating a conversation with a partner who knows that I am a blogger has put various constraints of the otherwise somewhat free flow of words. As described, it's not all bad, though, and I am not complaining. Live and let learn.

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